Pop/Rock, Modern Composition, Alternative/Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, Prog-Rock, Art Rock

Album Review

Frank Zappa often complained about how difficult it was to find a classical orchestra that would actually take the time to learn the scores it is presented and try its best to do a honorable job when it comes to contemporary composition. Late in his career, he found such a group of musicians, the Ensemble Modern (which recorded The Yellow Shark), but in the mid-'80s Pierre Boulez' Ensemble InterContemporain recorded a worthy session of material, released in August 1984 on EMI's classical imprint, Angel, as The Perfect Stranger. The title track was commissioned by Boulez, and sees the composer coming back to the days of 200 Motels, both in terms of style (the music is very programmatic) and references (at the center of the piece is the vacuum cleaner found in the aforementioned movie and in the cover artwork of the album Chunga's Revenge). "Naval Aviation in Art?" and "Dupree's Paradise," the latter an old rock piece from 1973 rearranged for orchestra, are also performed by Boulez' ensemble. The remaining four tracks are credited to "The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort" -- i.e., Zappa's Synclavier, a keyboard computer. "Outside Now, Again" and "Jonestown" are among the darkest, moodiest pieces of computer music the man has written. The composer remixed the album in 1992 and a moved a couple of tracks around. Compared to the London Symphony Orchestra sessions, The Perfect Stranger is a much stronger album with a better, rehearsed ensemble. Still, those not interested in the man's so-called serious music should steer clear of it.
Fran├žois Couture, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. The Perfect Stranger
  2. Naval Aviation in Art?
  3. The Girl in the Magnesium Dress
  4. Dupree's Paradise
  5. Love Story
  6. Outside Now Again
  7. Jonestown
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